Is The Playground Overdoing the No-Modifications Thing? Maybe. Does It Matter? Probably Not.

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Usually, the letters our mero-mero editero receives accuse us of everything from low IQ to being in league with the devil for any of a whole litany of sins. Our music critics are accused pretty much weekly of being tone-deaf, and anything we write about politics guarantees angry letters from the sort of people who have saliva stains down the fronts of their shirts (did you know I'm a "hate-filled neocon"?). We're used to this kind of letters.

We don't normally get sane people writing us to complain about restaurants, though, like reader Louis did. It's worth replying to people who write us politely, and so I'll let him explain:

My friends and I recently visited The Playground restaurant in Santa Ana, California. I was met with resistance when I requested oranges with my drink. The manager explained they do not alter the menu in any way. I explained my intent was not to change the menu but to merely have an orange slice to accompany my drink. The manager said they would stand by their word and would not fulfill my request. He also said we could go to another restaurant if we liked. We decided to stay, and ordered some appetizers. A short time later, our table was approached by a gentleman wearing a chef's uniform. The gentleman angrily slammed his hands on the table and stated "I'm the owner and I want you to leave". He then walked away from the table with no explanation. I have never experienced this type of unprofessionalism from a business owner nor would I expect this type of behavior in this situation. While I can respect their perspective on food, I cannot respect their approach to customer service.

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¡Ask a Comida Critic!: How Can I Request a Re-Review?

From Irene in the Land of the Intermittent Showers:

My family recently took over an upscale Chinese bistro in downtown Portland, Oregon. We just had our first review by our local free weekly paper, Willamette Week, and it's a bad one. We feel it was not a true and fair review of what we are, and we would like to invite back the reviewer who believed we are nothing but an overpriced place that will come and go without anyone noticing. Plus, he compared us to the mall food court's Panda Express.

In what ways would you suggest me doing this without further offending our local food critic?


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An Open Letter To Friends of Food Writers

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Flickr user themarmot
You didn't plant a spiky rosemary bush in the food! I LOVE YOU.
"Oh, it's not up to your standards, I'm sure."

I hate that phrase. I hate that phrase so much that just typing it made my blood pressure spike for a moment. I hate that phrase so much because it means someone is intimidated by cooking for me, and they shouldn't be.

I write about food and seek out whatever's good to buy in Orange County. I love to cook, and thirteen years after my first trip to a California farmers market, I am still stunned and humbled by the amazing things that come out of the soil within 250 miles of my house. So I cook--and I love to cook, and I love to post pictures on my Facebook of the food I make.

It's just a way of my sharing with my friendslist, "Look! Look at these amazing strawberries!" in the same way that someone else shares anything else they think is wonderful, but the question above is its dark side.
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¡Ask a Comida Critic!: Is Irvine or Anaheim the County's Most Integrated Supermarket City?

From Das Ubergeek himself:

A white guy (not me) and an Asian guy in the El Super on Anaheim and Ball [in Anaheim] arguing about the merits of gorditas vs. tortillas. Total integration of Anaheim, or sure sign of the Reconquista?

Let's use this introductory sentence for my required plug for my coming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States and to also note Americans have been debating the merits of "Mexican" food (chili con carne or tamales? El Torito or Chi-Chi's? Qdoba or Chipotle? Bayless or Kennedy? Hatch or Chimayó?) for over 150 years.

But Dave's question got me thinking about my beloved Anacrime, and the only other county city that can match it for culinary diversity and integration: Irvine.

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¡Ask a Comida Critic! Good Tomato Dishes?

This one's a bit broad, but why not? From Nydia in Laguna Niguel:

I LOVE tomatoes--could eat them raw all day. I know about Italians and their use of tomato, of course, but are there any other restaurants that do really good with their tomatoes?

Okayyyy...I usually don't think of tomatoes other than through an Italian or Mexican prism. I can direct you to Soho Taco's heirloom pico de gallo, a wondrous concoction as colorful as a bag of Skittles and much healthier for you, and you should snack on it eventually. But I think you're asking for a full meal, so a'stewin' we should go.

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Ask a Comida Critic: Best Chile Relleno in OC?

Someone actually asked this months ago, but it got lost in the pile along with my W-2 (eep!). Anyhoo, the query:

What's the best chile relleno in Orange County?

I must admit: I never order the dish. A chile relleno is never about subtlety; it's supposed be greasy, gooey, eggy, a glop to be mixed alongside refried beans and rice. It's probably the most Mexican-American of Mexican dishes, a meal a casual observer would place alongside the combo plate and nachos in the pantheon of Tex-Cal-Mex cuisine---but it's a wholly Mexican creation.

All this said, I never order the dish as prepared by most Mexican restaurants. Even with my dear mami, I get a towel to sop up the grease, and she makes them magnificently, using poblanos instead of the Anaheim peppers far too many restaurants use lest their gabacho customers gasp in heat.

I make exceptions for just two places.

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Where Can Out-of-Towners Get Drunk for This Weekend's NCAA Men's Basketball Western Regional Championship?

From Andrea and Chasen: So we should do something and tell all the people visiting Anaheim for our part of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament where to go eat and get drunk that's not too far away.

Rest of the Weeklings, who don't follow sports save for Ted, Matt and I: [Silence.]

Me: But the Honda Center has booze. . . .

Andrea: But they can't sell any for a college tournament.

Me: [Silence.]

SO . . . welcome, out-of-towners (except Duke fans), to our glorious county! Wish you could stay longer so we could give you a better experience, but I know most of you (save for San Diego State fans--bring us California burritos--and University of Arizona fans, most whom are probably back to visit home for spring break) took a cab from John Wayne to the various hotels around the Honda Center, only to recoil at your bill and vow never to use OC taxis again. We don't blame you--we don't bother with them.

I've been informed that the Honda Center won't sell alcohol for the NCAA men's basketball Western Regional semifinals and finals because of all those damn coeds--WEAK SAUCE. There are some bars and booze-friendly restaurants near the arena--but don't go for the obvious choices.

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¡Ask a Comida Critic! Where to Spend St. Patrick's Day Today?

The obvious question for hoy. From Forker Ann in Laguna Hills:

I want to celebrate St. Paddy's today, but I don't want to fight for a seat among a bunch of drunks. I want something classier--not Five Crowns classy. Besides, they're Brits.

Ooh, wish that I could direct you to a genteel Irish-themed pub, but "genteel" and "Irish" go together like "Mexican" and "genteel"--ain't going to happen. And nothing against our many fine Irish pubs--the Auld Dubliner and Muldoon's, Durty Nelly's and O'Malley's, among others--but they're not going to be places of civility tonight. 

Besides, what do you have against the Brits? St. Patrick's Day is the perfect day to stick it to those limeys--so why not go to . . .
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¡Ask a Comida Critic! Best Food Video of All Time?

I answer them how I get them folks, so I turn the mic over to Luis:

What's your favorite YouTube food video?

Easy--but it wasn't originally a YouTube video. It came from eBaum's World, my introduction to Internet videos from a looooooong time ago. There is where I saw Afro-Ninja for the first time, where I once saw some teen surfing on a truck, one foot steering while the other was on the roof--until the truck flipped.

And that's where I also saw my favorite food video, one I've used more than a few times on this infernal blog. After the jump!

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Where In OC to Get Your Cafe Du Monde Beignet and Coffee and Chicory Fix for Mardi Gras

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If you're one of the fortunate party-goers headed to the Big Easy this month, then go to Party City for your beads--this post isn't for you. If you are like most of us and miss the sweet, sweet combination of this French Market doughnut and strong chicory coffee, here's two ways to take care of that, after the jump.  Both take a little work, but beggars aren't choosers.

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